Robot of Sherwood premieres in:

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

What to Watch Next: Love & Monsters & The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

"But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It's so much darker, and so much madder. And so much better."

"The climax of my act, Gods of Ragnarok, requires something you do not possess in great abundance. That is, imagination."

There's a common strain of thought linking these two morals.

Ahem. We have precisely one Doctor Who title with an ampersand in it, which makes my post title look a mite odd but there it is. It took a bit of thought to come up with something to match the Tennant story - even years and producers down the line, there's not been anything challenging the premise nor the in quite the same fashion - but the Sylvester McCoy story came to mind readily enough.

They're hateful/loveable to fans for the same reasons, and with much the same flavour. They're unabashedly embarrassing, in a toe-curling, is-this-really-happening fashion that is entirely deliberate, unlike the great majority of stories that are embarrassing for purely unintentional reasons (you can come up with your own favourite examples; a Doctor Who fan with tastes so catholic as to appreciate every single story equally wouldn't be human). It's no coincidence that the theming of both is broadly comedic, even though the shapes of the stories aren't especially ("Galaxy" is a haunted house drama set at a circus, essentially, while "L & M" is about a young man who loses his innocence, his mother and his friends for no reason that's ever going to make sense). It is supposed to look as though the Doctor's reaching the end of his tether when he starts pulling eggs out of his mouth and hanging upside-down at the climax of "Galaxy" (and how often does a Tarot card reading get to be interpreted that literally, then), the notorious "love life" line in "L & M" is supposed to be exactly that self-conscious and slightly sheepish, and in both cases it lends the stories a certain verisimilitude that is impossible in a story that begins by taking itself seriously. This isn't the kind of gritty drama that Eric Saward produced, with bloodless deaths intended to shock and horrify; this sort of story-telling gets under your skin in a much more familiar and poignant fashion. Because as incitements for empathy go, identification with an embarrassed party is as sound as any; this is all a matter of whether you choose to accept it or not. It's the emotional register of what we might express in special effects as the difference between Ivor the Engine and Thomas the Tank, CGI edition; one of them looks a lot more "real" than the other, and makes the viewer do less work.

(The serious converse of "Love & Monsters" was Davies' next go at a Doctor-less script; "Turn Left" only gets away with its angst-pileup because we're already familiar with Donna and she can be easily reincorporated into the ongoing story. As for a serious Seventh Doctor story, well...there's a good many Virgin New Adventures that answer to that description quite readily.*)

Oh, and in other news, yours truly is back to writing, a mere week and change after the premier of the new season. Posts should be coming more frequently henceforth.

Love & Monsters

 Usually, in studying fifty pictures or so, there's still one particular photo that instantly leaps out as being amusing, or unexpected, or - hopefully - explicitly connected to the theme I'm doing.  
"F for Fake"

It's be a little extravagant to link to the entire Orson Welles movie, so here instead is the nine-minute trailer (which never actually was used for promotional purposes; did I mention its inordinate length?) The trajectory between one of the most narrative-bending episodes Doctor Who's ever seen and Welles' final masterpiece is reasonably obvious once you understand they're coming from much the same place; making you question what can be done with the Form of its type (all of filmography in one case, Doctor Who episodes on the other, which sounds slightly unfair but then Davies never said he was Orson Welles). Now if RTD ever tried to suggest that he was helping cover up the existence of aliens by shooting fake stories about them, we might have grounds for returning to the comparison...

Anyway, it really is a brilliant and unexpected film and ought to be watched cold. You can go look it up on Wikipedia after you've seen it.

The paucity of Jeff Lynn-related documentaries is a curious thing, but no great matter; here's a pleasant one with the originator of the band, Roy Wood. It's good for the songs, at the very least.

(The Electric Light Orchestra being an attempt to do pop songs in a classic style, taking six months to record the childish "Mr Blue Sky", it's an ideal fit for the rebooted DW; doing seemingly slight things in dramatic style. Presumably Davies had that comparison in mind, instinctively or consciously.

See also: Murray Gold's day job.) 

As a corrective for those who aren't so keen on ELO: dancehall duo from Jamaica. 

It's worth thinking about the timing here; their big break was in the early 90s, around the time that Davies was just starting to break into TV as a producer. In an episode about nostalgia inflections, is this a coincidence or purpose? We know that's about when he came up with the name LINDA for "Why Don't You". 

From "That Peter Kay Thing", which you probably know of already if you're from the UK. If you're not, it's a pseudo-documentary comedy in which Kay played most of the main characters. The line between this and the episode as aired should be fairly clear, though he turned down a chance to play Elton on the grounds that being the monster would be more fun.

I've picked this episode partly cos it's the first proper episode (and gives the situation for "Phoenix Nights", should you be interested in pursuing Kay's followup series) and also because the Neptune sets up a rather good gag for later on in the write-up, if you're paying attention...and as I was putting this together it's been announced that Kay's planning a comeback and another series of "Phoenix Nights". Good on him.

"Video Nation"

Astonishing how much the episode's dated regarding that camcorder; these days, ten to one that Elton would be using a mobile of some description and the directing grammar would be utterly different. There's a certain window when you could have made a piece of television that looks like this, and it fits somewhere between, ooh, the popularisation of iPhones and the start of the Video Nation project in 1993. Basically, the BBC gave a number of people camcorders to see what they'd do with them, and short projects such as this or this were the result.

(I'd love to know if the title sequence looking curiously reminiscent of "The Bells of St. John" was intentional or not in the latter; there's only so many ways to shoot a wall of video faces, but still...)

It went on for years, tons of videos were uploaded to the BBC website, and then it all came to an end in the 2011 website purge (we keep coming back to that, somehow; it's the twenty-first century and the BBC is still wiping whole swathes of its past). Some of it will hopefully persist, though; here's transcripts for the Welsh videos, for instance. Before you ask, there was exactly one that mentioned Doctor Who, in a video about the glories about Cardiff's Roath Park. Not quite half a mile away from which is an alley where they filmed some SJA.

Specifically, an alley where Clyde and Luke went chasing an evil clown in "Day of the Clown". Which by a logical chain of thought brings us to our second story...

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

It's not quite serendipity. It's about leaving yourself open to see what the universe has on offer. 
"George and the Dragon"
Veteran of the stage Peggy Mount, who plays the stall lady selling the hideous fruits, in a rather more fun if still imposing part. The clip is the first episode of her 60s sitcom with Sid James (also starring John Le Mesurier, cf. "Dad's Army", and Keith Marsh, who helped out Bernard Cribbins for a bit in the Dalek film). It's a cheery light-hearted affair, with Mount squaring off against James in a suprisingly even-handed fashion.

(The director of Love & Monsters, Dan Zeff, also directed a film called "Hattie", about the triangle between Hattie Jacques, her husband John Le Mesurier, and her lover. British culture really does all blend together if you look at it long enough.)

Blake's 7, Terry Nation, rewritten by Chris Boucher, add in the guest spot by T. P. McKenna (Captain Cook in the DW episode), and this story was basically a shoo-in for my purposes. McKenna gets all the most memorable lines, including a romp in a red Edwardian roadster and a showdown with Blake in his private museum. The genuine 20th century gramophone is a hoot, and serve to establish Blake's amoral anti-hero motivation in a crisp character moment that's yet to be enjoyed by Capaldi...

"BBC Elstree"
Where most of the story was filmed. Or rather, in the parking lot of said studios: a fairly well-known tale involving asbestos in the intended studio, hence there being an actual tent where they actually did the circus scenes. I've picked two more clips, an ATV Christmas promo here and an up-to-date one with terribly earnest music here, as a sort of logical historical progression.

(Anybody who wishes to view this as an ironic commentary on the decline of the British film industry, particularly the ironically forward-looking lyrics of the Buggles song - the BBC purchased the place a couple of years after that second video - is free to do so.)

"The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole"
Whizzkid's main acting project, before he retired and went into nursing as a profession instead.

About that embarrassment theme I started this piece with? It's difficult to imagine anyone enjoying this series except on the basis of empathy; Adrian's angsty, rather self-obsessed, and a good deal of our sympathy goes to him only because of what he gets put through by other people, and yet because of that fact it's possible to muster a certain empathy for said situations.

Otherwise it's just a show about an unpalatable protagonist whining his way through some of the most unpleasant bits of the 80s, and you'd have to ask why anyone in their right mind would want to watch that.

"The Great Soprendo"
Who helped out McCoy out during production, helping him with some of the sleight of hand exercises. As excuses for not explaining what he's just done go, "I can't reveal Magic Circle secrets" is about as good as any in the Seventh Doctor era.

Postscript: that "You're not interested in beginnings. You're only interested in endings." line reads these days like a well-deserved telling-off for Michael Grade and his ilk. One can hope.

*Actually, if you really want a serious take on the Love & Monster format try David Bishop's "Who Killed Kennedy" novel, and observe that it goes far, far beyond anything that Davies could squeeze into forty-five minutes in the way of fanwank. Perversely, it has a far sillier ending.

NEW Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood Promotional Pictures Released!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Into the Dalek: Doctor Who Extra

(Doctor Who Extra is now available Worldwide)

Doctor Who: Robots of Sherwood Next Time Trailer

Doctor Who ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Videos

A social media viral phenomenon lately has been the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on someones head to promote awareness of the disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research.
ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) or Motor Neurone Disease Association (MND) is a neurodegenerative disease involving nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Individuals affected with MND/ALS lose muscle control due to the deterioration of muscle impulses and over time become progressively paralysed.
The challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and then nominating others to do the same. A common stipulation is that nominated participants have 24 hours to comply or forfeit by way of a charitable financial donation.
To learn more about the Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS you can visit in the USA and in the UK

These are the challenges that we have found, let us know in the comments if we have missed or any new videos come out, and we will update the post.

Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor):

Karen Gillan (Amy Pond):

Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) took part along with some of the cast of Broadchurch (only in the first minute), David Tennant was not there:

John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness):

Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith):

Burn Gorman (Owen Harper from Torchwood) (Click twice on the video is the ratio is weird):

Neil Gaiman (Writer of The Doctor's Wife and Nightmare in Silver)

Steven Moffat, David Tennant, Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), and Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) have all been challenged but have not yet responded.
There are also many well done Doctor Who themed challenges, created by fans, a YouTube search for "Doctor Who" "Ice Bucket Challenge" will display many good fan videos.

And just because - Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock):

The Preview Review: Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 2: Into the Dalek [Spoiler-Free]

(While this review does not contain major spoilers or specifics, some minor things may be given away. Details have been left out to avoid spoiling them, but read at your own discretion.)

With Deep Breath meeting some mixed reactions, especially from the fans, only two things were certain. Peter Capaldi was the shining point of the episode and it is definitely darker now. But with a darker tone, neither us nor The Doctor are certain on who he is. Is he a good man?

Into the Dalek, penned by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat, takes a newly regenerated Doctor and tries, with great success, to open up our new Doctor and show both The Doctor and the viewers his soul. New Doctors' second episodes have usually been a bit hit or miss, but Into the Dalek is very possibly the strongest second episode we've seen so far in the revival, although the episode wouldn't have worked nearly as well if it were placed anywhere else, or with any other Doctor.

"Terrible idea for a proctologist."
Into the Dalek joins Dinosaurs on a Spaceship in the "it does what it says on the tin" titles category. We see The Doctor, Clara, and three soldiers be miniaturised and inserted into a Dalek, with the intention of repairing it from its severe damage. In fact, it's so damaged that it has turned good! This isn't actually a new concept to Doctor Who, as Justin Richards wrote a graphic novel, The Only Good Dalek, around a very similar concept and the fans have also considered it immensely. Half of The Cult of Skaro have also suffered from turning good. The idea of miniaturising is far from new too, with the original 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage. It even has its own trope which has already appeared on Doctor Who back in The Invisible Enemy in 1977. It is even lampshaded in the episode! A similar idea of miniaturisation, with a similar threat, has also appeared recently in Let's Kill Hitler.

The Daleks have also always had the recurring theme of showing us elements of The Doctor - take Journey's End as a fantastic example of this - and Into the Dalek is no exception, especially with it feeling very similar to 2005's Dalek. In this episode, he is faced with a 'good' Dalek which is something he professes is absolutely impossible. But it has triggered him to question himself more, prompting him to ask Clara the now infamous question, "am I a good man?"

Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton)
Before we even get to this, however, the episode opens with a ship running from the Daleks. Like with Asylum, it is very nice to have The Daleks be a major threat (like in the Classics) without the story revolving around them all perishing or trying to destroy everything, like in RTD's era. This helps to keep them scary, since they're not easily wiped out at every single meeting.
The Doctor manages to rescue a soldier, Journey Blue (Zawe Ashton), from the ship just in the nick of time while still holding his two cups of coffee. Despite failing to save her brother, The Doctor is incredibly cold to her and continues being cold throughout the episode and at some points he is very 'un-Doctor-y', especially when faced with death. At one point, I even felt slightly repulsed by him. His time on Trenzalore, especially against the Daleks, has definitely hardened him.

Such a happy fella.
After quite forcibly teaching Journey on how to ask nicely, which feels like something The Doctor (especially this Doctor) would do, he returns her to her base, the Aristotle, where he is soon confronted with the Dalek, quickly destroying his excitement at being shrunk. Capaldi's reaction quite possibly made the episode.

We return to the pickups and dropoffs of Clara. It is very nice to see a companion who has a normal life and a sense of control over, as she puts it, her 'hobby'. We also start to see some further much needed character development for Clara with the introduction of new companion Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). After just being 'dumped' by The Doctor, she sets her egomaniac sights on the first new man we see introduced and practically forces him into accepting a drink with her. Take from this what you will, but I find it pretty needy (and thus, either quite shallow writing or later episodes simply didn't have the spare time to introduce him). However, while it was only a few minutes, his introduction was beautiful, telling yet also momentarily cringe-worthy. It gives me incredibly high hopes for Samuel Anderson and the character's back-story he is telling.

Luckily, we don't hang around Coal Hill too long, and soon after the Doctor kicks open the door, we're into the Dalek and the actual plot can begin. The episode poses some new ideas towards the Daleks, some great, but some don't fit very well into the overall design of the master race, especially the somewhat anti-climatic nature of the solutions, but they fit the episode well. It was nice to hear them chant "Seek. Locate. Destroy." again too.
Seek. Locate. Destroy.
For some reason, this episode has some really terrible control of the Daleks' heads - specifically the eyestalks - with them flying all over the place. Sadly, this really takes away some of the fear of the Daleks in this episode since they no longer have the still death stare but rather are pretty much everywhere but the enemy. Similarly, the speech lights were also hit and miss.
On a positive note, I've never seen a Dalek shoot so fast before which can be considered an improvement, depending on your point of view.

After a few extended episodes, Into the Dalek feels a lot quicker now that we are back to the standard 45 minute length, although Deep Breath's slow pace helps account for this even more. Having said that, the pace of this episode is excellent. The episode, especially the ending, neither feels rushed or slow, which has been quite a rarity this past couple of years. It even gives plenty of time for a wonderful speech. For some reason, I found the title sequence much nicer this time, possibly due to the massive reduction in the delay for it to begin.

Can you spot the eyes? They ARE there!
As a strongly CGI-based episode, the CGI in this episode may not have been top-notch but it was perfectly adequate, with some really cheesy exceptions, such as the door explosion. On a pedantic note, I thought the shrunken characters seemed a bit big for what was occurring and the choice on the backdrops are a little weird.

Capaldi and Coleman have some amazing chemistry, which definitely shows. It's very different from the chemistry with Matt, with The Doctor constantly jabbing at her, and others, and Clara casually responds, including slapping some sense into him. Capaldi is bone-chilling in his cold eyebrowed stare and does a great job at being cold and silently (and not so silently) upset. Michael Smiley does a great job at being as humanly emotionless as possible for the little screen time he has, while Zawe Ashton easily makes you have the feelings for her. Samuel Anderson was simply outstanding. Everyone else can quite easily be taken or left.

I feel Jenna's costume should also be mentioned. Sadly, it's not as elegant as her previous bowtie one, I find it quite awesome that her first Capaldi costume is a top full of eyes!

The episode is rather lacking in the music department, with a few needy exceptions, especially as far as new music is concerned. Perhaps it is the sound mix of the preview copy or they're just trying to give it a more raw feel. It's somewhat disappointing that the climax of the episode is old music.

Overall, the episode was very enjoyable, as long as a few things are overlooked, such as the repeated elements and ignoring key Dalek details with the director, cast and pace making up for this. I would rate it 7/10.

Into the Dalek airs tonight at 7.30pm.
"Into The Dalek", eh?

Friday, 29 August 2014

Doctor Who: Listen Synopsis Released

The BBC have released the synopsis for Steven Moffat's greatly anticipated episode, Listen:

When ghosts of past and future crowd into their lives, the Doctor and Clara are thrown into an adventure that takes them to the very end of the universe.
What happens when the Doctor is alone? And what scares the grand old man of Time and Space? Listen!

Doctor Who: Into the Dalek Preview Clip Three

See the two previous clips here.

Introduction to Doctor Who: Into the Dalek

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

2 New Clips From Doctor Who: Into the Dalek Released

The BBC have released two new clips from the upcoming episode, Into the Dalek. The first is an extension of the "Am I a Good Man?", used in the trailers where it reveals The Doctor's reaction. The second is an extension of the "I'm his carer" clip, showing the Dalek asking for help.

Into the Dalek airs this Saturday at 7.30pm.

Around the World in Twelve Days with the Twelfth Doctor - World Tour Summary

Doctor Who: Robots of Sherwood Air Time Confirmed

The BBC Media Centre has confirmed that Robots of Sherwood will air on 6th September at 7.30pm and finish at 8.20pm.
In a sun-dappled Sherwood forest, the Doctor discovers an evil plan from beyond the stars and strikes up an unlikely alliance with Robin Hood.
With all of Nottingham at stake, the Doctor must decide who is real and who is fake. Can impossible heroes really exist?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Doctor Who 'Into the Dalek' 10 teasers

Over the course of this series we will be offering each week 10 teasers related to the upcoming episode.

10 Teasers for 'Into the Dalek':

  1. "Rusty?"
  2. Aristotle
  3. Remember the Doctor went for coffee?
  4. "Bolt Hole!"
  5. "Are you my Doctor?"
  6. Listen out for references to The TV Movie and Amy's Choice
  7. A cut-scene would do just nicely...
  8. "Welcome to the most dangerous place in the universe"
  9. We finally see someone die on screen
  10. "You're one of my hobbies"